We may not have any type of yard here in Delhi, but there are a few outside ledges and decks where we can add a little greenery of our own to help clean some of this Delhi air. Like MOST things in India, it is a process. To get a few plants, here is the 8 step process I have just experienced.
This picture is from the top floor of a hotel that shows just how green this city is when you get out of the chaos of it.
1. Find a gardener. Like most things here, you “hire” someone to do such type of work. (An expat has to hire someone just to find out where there is a nursery to buy plants.) We got a reference from someone that works with Tyler at Microsoft. Due to the language problem, I had our maid schedule the time that he could meet with me. He came to our apartment and looked at the areas I wanted to add some plants.
2. Drive many kilometers to a nursery. After showing the gardener, Vito, where I wanted plants, I asked our driver to take us to a nursery that the gardener recommended that has a good variety and better prices. I have absolutely no idea what the actual distance was, but with Delhi traffic, it took about 40 minutes to arrive at this nursery. Let’s just say that the Lowe’s nursery in San Clemente is probably 5 or 6 times larger but that should not surprise me as I consider most “stores” here.
3. Place plants on dirt sidewalk. While you are all digging up your petunias and marigolds, those are the flowering plants one sees in Delhi now. The stifling heat and monsoon season has finally left so some annual flowers can finally thrive. As plants were chosen, mostly by what the gardener recommended had the best success rate here, they were placed right outside on the dirt sidewalk in front of the nursery. There were 2 small nurseries side by side that we pulled plants from for purchase.
4. Pay the “white lady” price. Once the plants are chosen, the paper and pen appears. Some young worker at the store writes down the price. He then hands the list off to someone else who is holding a calculator to add it all up. He writes the total price at the bottom and hands it to me. Then one of the “higher ups” in the establishment actually accepts the money. Cash only, of course. Now, in India, there is the “Indian price” and the “expat price.” Even though I was with two natives — a gardener and a driver (yes, I asked him to join us in the nursery to help me understand the gardener), I was still given the “white lady” price. I could tell by how frustrated those working for me seemed to be while negotiating. When I pulled my wallet out to pay, my driver would say, pay a few hundred rupies less. He would hand them the money, a little more haggling and then it was settled with everyone, including me, knowing I still paid too much.
This is the driver and gardener trying their best to get my price closer to the “Indian price.”
5. Buy some pots. Of course you wouldn’t dream of having the pots right inside the nursery. It has to be the next market down the road. I think there were more pots than plants but they are all extremely similar. Once again, the price was discussed and again, it was clear that although I didn’t speak a word during that transaction, it was me with the money and thus the larger price tag.
One of the markets to buy the pottery.
6. Load up your wagons. Yes, we drive an SUV that is similar to the size of a Toyota Sequoia and a Toyota Innova, a minivan, but no, in India, you don’t load up your car with the seats all turned down. Instead, the wagons pulled by bicycles are the vehicle of choice for this errand. I asked my driver, couldn’t we just place these pots in the back of our car. His response was, “no, they would bang against each other and break. So somehow, loading these cement pots on a wood wagon with straw placed in between them, pulled by a bicycle with at least an hours ride ahead of them is the best option — only in India!
Hard to believe that these 2 bicycles pulled these wagons quite a distance to get to our house. Of course, that is the profession of these men so they are happy for the work.
7. Buy soil and fertilizer. So as the pots and plants were being driven away, I asked about the soil needed. Of course, no soil or fertilizer is anywhere near the nursery or pottery markets. The gardener informs me that he will buy that tomorrow at a different market. So, the gardener drives a motorcycle and yes, he will somehow make it work that he can attach enough fertilizer and soil to his motorcycle to fill 18 medium to large pots.
8. Pot, Place and Feed the Plants. So as we arrived back to our place after our excursion, of course the gardener wasn’t going to wait around for the “delivery”, I tried to pin him down on when he would be returning to pot the plants. “Tomorrow”, he said. I explained that with it being Saturday, it would need to be in the morning. By 11, he said. Anyone who has lived in India knows that it will not be 11, rather a few hours later or a day later. He explained that if I was not there, he would do the potting in the driveway area and we can place them later. If indeed, he shows up and pots them all when I am not here, me, the person who has always been her own gardener, would love to carry them all upstairs and place them myself, but I would have a guard, driver and anyone else hanging around, feeling like they had to help me. So, I suppose I will just have to go off Indian time and wait for the gardener. He will be dropping by several times a week anyways to feed and care for the plants. After all, it just wouldn’t be right to try to water your own potted plants in India.